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As a young kid and now as an adult, playing in the dirt never lost its appeal. I may have evolved from building pretend dirt castles to carefully planting flowers, but nonetheless, the feeling of sandy or moist soil between my fingers never ceases to awaken the senses. However, nowadays, my more aged and continually rising awareness coupled with an urban living environment have generated concerns that I was once immune to as a kid: the threat of lead contamination and other toxins in our soil.

Lead from old paint, batteries, lead-based gasoline and other emissions leached and in some cases continue to leach into our soil from old structures and landfill rubbish. While these lead based items are no longer allowed to be sold or used, traces of these poisonous materials are left behind in homes built before 1978, and in the dirt and soil surrounding our community's playgrounds, gardens and backyards.

One of the easiest, most permanent and sustainable ways to reduce lead and toxin contamination from your outdoor leisure area is through phytoremediation, which is much more simple than it sounds. Basically, all you need to do is place specific plants in the contaminated soil, and let them do all the work?now that?s what I call green technology. It?s low energy, low cost, and a fix that will keep future generations thriving and building dirt castles of their very own.

Best Plants For The Job

- Cabbage and other crucifers — Heavy metals like lead

- Indian Mustard Greens — Heavy metals like lead, Arsenic, radiation

- Alpine Pennycress — Heavy metals like lead

- Geranium — Heavy metals like lead

- Sunflowers — Heavy metals like lead, radiation

- Dandelions — Heavy metals like lead

- Pigweeds—Radiation

- Alfalfa—Benzene, petroleum

- FernsArsenic

- Clover—Petroleum

After one to two full seasons of these plants, continue to test your soil to make sure toxins have been removed before letting the little ones dig in. And most importantly, make sure not to throw the discarded plants into the garbage where they end up leaching chemicals back into the soil through landfills. You need to treat these plants as toxic waste and dispose of them through your local government's hazardous waste program.